Phillies-Mets Debate: Let's Settle This Now, Pt. 1

C KSenior Analyst IMarch 29, 2009

PORT SAINT LUCIE, FL - FEBRUARY 23:  Francisco Rodriguez #75 of the New York Mets poses during photo day at Tradition Field on February 23, 2009 in Port Saint Lucie, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Enough is enough. There have been as many Mets and Phillies articles as there are children of Brad and Angelina.

They multiply everyday (the kids and the articles).

So why don't we end this now? This rambling about who has the better bullpen, closer, infielders, fans, and clubhouse carpets has to stop.

I thought about how we could stop this finally came upon an idea sometime last week. What better way is there to end a disagreement, or clear some of the air up, than a debate?

I have decided to create a cross-community debate, as I call it. I selected two Phillies writers to debate alongside me, and Richard Marsh selected three for the Mets.

Richard was originally involved here in Part 1, but he will be in next week's debate (more on this later).

I created five questions and Richard came up with three of his own, and I compiled them all to send out to the writers we chose. They answered them, sent them back to me, and I put them together along with my own answers.

Now, as I hinted at above, this is not a one-week segment. There are two initial parts to this series.

This week, we will be debating pitching. Next week, we will focus on hitting. Different writers will be chosen for next week's debate.

This may come back during the season, depending on how things play out.

A trip to Spring Training delayed this piece, but I have finally grouped my ideas together to write this up.

Here it goes. Enjoy what you see. That is a command.

New York Mets Writers: David Marine, Lou Cappetta, and Wendy Adair.

Philadelphia Phillies Writers: Christian Karcole (myself), Bryn Swartz, and Cody Swartz.

1. Both the Mets and Phillies have top notch aces in Johan Santana and Cole Hamels, respectively. Yet, beyond those two, neither team has a stand-out pitcher that is known to bring the heat day in and day out. Evaluate the rest of the rotations and tell us team you believe has the upper hand in this area.

Mets Side

Wendy Adair: For the Mets, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Livan Hernandez close out the starting rotation behind Johan Santana.

Maine and Perez both have a lot to prove this spring for various reasons and have not shown any established consistency as of yet, but there is still time before Opening Day to work out their mechanics.

Pelfrey has been battling leg problems, which could affect his mechanics and delivery greatly, but with proper conditioning, he will be fine.

Livan Hernandez is new to the team. replacing Pedro Martinez. The Mets organization, and the fans, are hoping Hernandez will give us more innings than Martinez to take the pressure off the bullpen.

For the Phillies, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, Brett Myers and either Chan Ho Park or J.A. Happ are the pitchers behind Cole Hamels.

Blanton was added to the rotation to replace Adam Eaton, Jamie Moyer is close to retirement, and Brett Myers is known to have problems with consistency.

Park and Happ are competing for the fifth starter slot, which may or not always be utilized, depending on the scheduled days off. But either picther can always provide long relief.

The two rotations are pretty well-matched, but I believe the Mets will have the upper hand because they are a hard-working, fairly young staff. With anticipated run support from their sluggers, they should all put up good numbers.

David Marine: Santana and Hamels are equally valuable to their teams, but after that, I think the edge has to go to the Mets as far as the remainder of the rotation.

The Phillies' rotation is straight out of The Dream Team, a movie back in the early 90's with Michael Keaton and Peter Boyle.

You've got your leader (Hamels), old guy (Moyer), your crazy guy (Myers), your young guy who's inexperienced (Kendrick), and the token fat guy (Blanton).

What the Phillies have here is as reliable as the CW program schedule.

The Mets rotation isn't exactly formidable, but there's definitely better potential, with two guys who won 15 games each just two seasons ago (Maine and Perez), a kid who's looking like he could be a future ace (Pelfrey), the journeyman with an elastic arm (Hernandez), and the best pitcher in baseball (Santana).

Advantage goes to the Mets.

Lou Cappetta: Both rotations have less-than-stellar starting rotations after their respective aces. Moyer, the Phils No. 2 starter, is probably the best of the bunch, so he gets a slight edge over Maine.

Moyer can still win games, but one has to wonder when his age will finally catch up to him.

Maine, who had an excellent season in 2007, took a step back in 2008 and will be trying to come back from offseason surgery.

Myers and Perez are very similar. One day they pitch lights out, the next they're getting stomped by the Nationals.

Pelfrey was a huge bright spot for the Mets last season and may eventually become the No. 2 starter, but he needs to prove 2008 wasn't a fluke.

Blanton was very good down the stretch for the Phils, going 4-0, but he too needs to show what he can do for a full season.

Both teams will mix and match starters at the five spot and are very similar overall.

I give a slight edge to Santana over Hamels, but as far as the rest of the starting staff, the advantage is Philadelphia's.

Phillies Side

Christian Karcole: It's the Phillies, and I can say that with complete confidence.

Myers had a terrible first half last season, but his 2.25 and 1.65 ERA's in July and August respectively showed us how well he can pitch at full strength.

Of course, those aren't the numbers Myers will put up every month, but he should be able to put up a 3.50 ERA and a decent WHIP.

Moyer is one of the best 46-year olds in the history of baseball, and his 16 wins last season showed that.

Blanton didn't lose a game with the Phillies last season. And both Happ and Park can be solid fifth starters.

Park used to be a high quality starter, but also fits well in the bullpen. If Happ ends up with the job, hopefully he can evolve into a good six-inning pitcher.

Pelfrey, Maine, Perez, and Hernandez all combine to make a solid group as well, but they can't match up to the standard set in Philadelphia.

Maine has not exactly proved himself in the majors, especially with his injuries and inconsistencies, and Perez is overrated, as I have written before.

Pelfrey could fall into the Kyle Kendrick factor, where batters finally figure him out, but he looks to be the best out of the Mets' starters not named Johan Santana.

Then there's Hernandez, who is nothing like what he used to be. He got killed last season, and shows no sign of recovering.

Bryn Swartz: This one is easy. The Phillies have a significant advantage in starting pitching. Just look at how their pitchers performed in the postseason last year.

Myers could turn into one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball if everything works out, and Blanton didn't lose a single game in the regular season last year (as a Philly).

Moyer is the greatest 46-year-old pitcher in the history of baseball and whoever wins the job as the fifth starter should be only a step below the other pitchers.

The Mets have decent starting pitching, but head-to-head, I think they go 0-for-4 here.

Cody Swartz: Hamels and Santana are about as good as it gets for major league pitchers.

Hamels posted a 1.80 ERA in the 35 biggest innings of his life, but Santana wasn't too shabby either, posting a sub-2.00 ERA in both August and September.

Myers can be very streaky, but he is a lethal hitter, known to foul off dozens of pitches in a single at-bat.

Moyer is aging but still as productive as always, coming off a solid World Series outing.

Blanton is a terrific fourth pitcher, and the innings-eater for the team.

The only question mark for the team is the fifth spot, which looks to be either Park or Happ.

Pelfrey, Perez, and Maine are very reliable starters for the Mets, who, like the Phillies, only have a question mark for their fifth starting spot.

Slight overall edge goes to the Phillies.

2. On Dec. 9, 2008, the Mets signed closer Francisco Rodriguez, also known as K-Rod. The next day, the Mets traded for closer-turned set-up man J.J. Putz. Yet, the Mets will be without closer Billy Wagner for most, if not all, of the 2009 season. The Phillies' only change to their bullpen was the 50-game suspension of J.C. Romero. What impact will these changes have on the two bullpens?

Mets Side

Wendy Adair: The Mets' bullpen is mostly to blame for the team's recent September collapses, so a drastic change was needed.

Rodriguez was needed as a closer because of the elbow injury to Wagner, and Duaner Sanchez was not effective as the appointed set-up man, so the addition of Putz should benefit the pitching staff.

Romero’s suspension will hurt the Phillies because it now puts the burden on Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey.

David Marine: The impact is greatly in favor of the Mets. The bullpen blew more saves (27) than any other team in the N.L., if not the entire universe.

Add that to the fact that they finished one win shy of making the playoffs and you can see why the Mets were in dire need of making some major bullpen moves.

With Putz and Rodriguez, the Mets have basically shortened each game to seven innings. These guy can be relied upon to lock up the last two innings on a regular basis.

However, the Phillies still have Brad Lidge, who had a career year last year. But the Phillies still have to get to Lidge, which could be a major issue with the Romero suspension, although he struggled at key moments as well.

Lou Cappetta: The bullpen moves by the Mets were some of the best moves of any team during the 2008 offseason.

Wagner's injury may have been a blessing in disguise, because without it, the Mets probably do not sign K-Rod. Putz, an all-star closer in his own right, will become the new set-up man.

It will be interesting to see how this move affects him.

Some closers have trouble in the set-up role, and vice versa. If it pans out, the Mets' major weakness in 2008 may become their strength in 2009.

There is no underratting Romero's importance to the Phillies last season. As the Mets proved, it doesn't matter how good your closer is if you cant get to him.

Romero pitched in 81 games last year, and the combination of him, Madson, and Lidge basically meant that if the opposing team wasn't winning by the seventh, the game was over.

Romero's suspension is huge. Fifty games is a lot of games, especially in a division that has gone down to the wire the past two seasons.

A missed opportunity in April could mean missing the playoffs in October.

Phillies Side

Christian Karcole: The Mets will have a hugely improved bullpen this season. We all know that.

Yet, K-Rod and Putz do not make the Mets bullpen an automatic league-leader.

Putz, as the set-up man, will be a huge improvement over whoever would have filled that position this season. But, he has not had the best spring and is having trouble with a few pitches.

With K-Rod, I don't think of this signing like others do. I think of this as a swap with Billy Wagner. To me, Wagner is just as good as Rodriguez.

Wagner's ERA was 0.06 higher, his WHIP was 0.40 lower, and he blew the same amount of saves as K-Rod. Honestly, I figure this to almost be a swap of the two and not really a huge improvement.

With Romero, there is certainly a reason to worry. But with Clay Condrey's 3.26 ERA as the highest in the bullpen last season, I'm not panicking just yet.

Ryan Madson stepped up big time down the stretch last season, so Mad-Dog should do just fine.

Bryn Swartz: There's no denying that these changes will be enormous, with a gigantic
advantage going to the New York Mets.

The question is whether or not that advantage is enough to give the Mets an edge in the division.

The Mets get two of the top relievers in the game, while the Phillies lose one of the more underrated relief pitchers in baseball for about a third of a season.

Cody Swartz: Losing Wagner will hurt the Mets, but K-Rod and Putz more than make up for that loss.

Losing Romero hurts the Phillies, but I think this is a team with a better overall bullpen. Facing Putz and K-Rod in the eighth and ninth is pretty scary, but Madson and Lidge aren't too inviting either.

This division could very well come down to the better bullpen.

3. Brad Lidge went a perfect 48-for-48, including playoffs, last season. Francisco Rodriguez went 62-for-69 last season on the 100-win Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, setting the record for most saves in a season. Who is the better closer and who will end up having the better season? Why?

Mets Side

Wendy Adair: That is about as tight a comparison as you can get. They are both incredible closers, but let’s face it, Lidge can’t be expected to be perfect every year.

Lidge earned his “Lights out Lidge” moniker last year, but Rodriguez has the fire and attitude that was lacking on the Mets pitching staff and his teammates will benefit from his tenacious personality.

I believe K-Rod will have the better season.

David Marine: Lidge was perfect last year. But statistics tell me the likelihood of that happening in back-to-back years isn't too good.

Lidge will blow more saves this year than last year. It's inevitable. However, that shouldn't mean he's not going to have another great year.

I expect K-Rod to feel the N.Y. pressure and struggle at points in the season, but overall he'll give the Mets 35-plus saves, at the least.

The key will be who's mind is stronger.

We all know Lidge is one Pujols homer away from dropping to the fetal position, and K-Rod is an emotional pitcher, so a big-stage let-down could cause him some mental struggles as well.

Overall, I expect both these closers to have great seasons. I honestly think it's even on this one.

Lou Cappetta: Both Lidge and Rodriguez had career years in 2008, so the chances of either one duplicating may be a bit of a stretch.

Prior to 2008, Lidge was in Houston. He had lost his control, his confidence, and his closer's job. Philly took a chance on him and it proved to pay off.

Still, one has to wonder if Lidge could be one big blown save away from collapsing again.

Rodriguez has been remarkably consistent since helping the Angels win the 2002 World Series. He has yet to suffer the pitfalls of many other dominant closers of this generation.

But he did pitch a ton last season, and that has to worry Mets fan a bit going into 2009.

I give a slight edge to Rodriguez, because he has proven to be consistent. But I think Lidge will be pretty good as well.

Phillies Side

Christian Karcole: Perfection is tough to beat. Even before 2008, Lidge was considered one of the best closers in 2004 and 2005, and although his 2006 campaign wasn't too attractive, his 2007 season was better than what people thought.

But even so, whatever dragged him down in '06 and '07 (the Pujols home run is the likely candidate, along with messed up mechanics) disappeared in 2008.

Lidge wasn't tipping his pitches, and even when batters could tell his slider was coming, they could not hit it.


Rodriguez was a save machine last year, but he had 69 save opportunities. Lidge had 41.

In every stat except walks (difference of one), Lidge dominated K-Rod. Really, the only place Lidge lost was saves, and saves means nothing unless they have the same amount of opportunitie.

So how can you go against a guy that beats the other guy in every other stat? You can't, plain and simple.

Bryn Swartz: Lidge is better. Even Mets fans should be willing to admit that.

I'll take a closer who saves 100 percent of his games over a closer who saves 90 percent.

The Phillies would not have won the World Series without Lidge, hands down. But it's more than just the save percentage. Lidge beat Rodriguez in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, strikeoutseverything.

Cody Swartz: Lights Out. You don't mess with perfection.

K-Rod is phenomenalthere is no denying that. But his 2.24 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and seven blown saves don't scare me as much as Lidge's 1.95 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and zero blown saves, plus a slider that Lindy's preview magazine describes as "the slider from hell."

I think both will be their usual dominant selves this upcoming season, but I have to side with Lidge, just because I think he is the most untouchable reliever in baseball right now.

4. The Mets have just one relief pitcher other than Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz who had an ERA of under 4.00 last season. The Phillies, on the other hand, do not have a relief pitcher who had an ERA above 3.26. Will the late-inning additions for the Mets be enough to pull them through their lack of depth?

Mets Side

Wendy Adair: The Mets relief pitchers did give up a lot of runs, especially late in games.

General Manager Omar Minaya put a lot of time and thought into acquiring Putz and Rodriguez, and they are both expected to put the Mets over the top while lowering the staff ERA.

David Marine: I mentioned this earlier, but it's important to state again: The Mets
blew 27 saves last year and were still one game away from the playoffs.

All the Mets needed was one of those blown saves to turn into a win and it's a different story. Putz and K-Rod will more than make up for that one blown save differential.

Lou Cappetta: This may be the one area that really separates the two clubs.

The 50-game suspension of J.C. Romero will really hurt the Phils, and the Mets new additions at closer and set-up make them comparable to, if not better than, the Phillies.

But it's hard to argue with the rest of the bullpen. The Mets will have many new faces, including a promising young talent in Sean Green, but the Phillies are stacked with middle -inning relief.

In fact, the Phillies have three guys in Madson, Durbin, and Scott Eyre who are better than any of the middle relief guys the Mets have.

This could end up being where the division is decided.

Phillies Side

Christian Karcole: No, K-Rod and Putz won't be enough.

There's more than the eighth and ninth innings to a bullpen's job. Most nights, the 'pen has to pitch in the sixth and seventh as well.

I'd rather send out Eyre (1.88 ERA), Durbin (2.87 ERA), and Condrey (3.26 ERA) than Feliciano (4.05 ERA), Sean Green (4.67 ERA), and Brian Stokes (3.51 ERA) in those two innings.

Nights when Putz can't go in the eighth, the Mets will be in trouble

It's just a matter of depth. Romero's suspension could actually only help the Phillies and their depth.

Romero will come in with a fresh arm after 50 games, leaving him with 112 games to pitch. He shouldn't experience too much of a tired arm down the stretch.

Also, after the load Madson will be taking on, he can be given a decent break to help him glide back into a split role once Romero returns.

Overall, there isn't a logical way that Putz and K-Rod will be able to make up for the lack-luster performance from the rest of the Mets pitchers.

Bryn Swartz: No. Any team would take consistency from all of its pitchers over
greatness from just two of them.

A 3.26 ERA is significantly better than the league ERA. When your worst pitchers are significantly better than the league, you're in good shape.

Cody Swartz: No, it won't. The Phillies are too experienced, too driven, too well-rounded...and just flat out too good.

The Mets have made some strong improvements, but I don't think they will be able to buy their way to a championship.

5. This is it, the big question: Which team has the better overall pitching staff? Combine the rotations and bullpens in your answer.

Mets Side

Wendy Adair: The Mets have the younger and hungrier starting rotation, but the Phillies' staff has more experience.

Overall, I am giving the advantage to the Mets.

Santana and Hamels are clearly the aces of their respective teams, but the remainder of the Mets' starting rotation is clearly better.

Once Tim Redding and Freddy Garcia get on track they develop the talents of Jonathan Niese and Bobby Parnell, the Mets will have an incredible pitching staff.

The additions of Putz and Rodriguez will do much to improve the bullpen situation, which has beleaguered the Mets for the last few years.

Maine, Perez, and Pelfrey will have their work cut out for them, but they will be successful this year.

The Phillies have Blanton, Myers, Moyer and Park/Happ behind Hamels, so they also have great depth, but there are concerns for all pitchers involved.

The bullpen of Durbin, Condrey, Madson, and Lidge will all play major roles as the Phillies' offense is notorious for scoring runs later in the game, whereas the Mets score their runs early and then fade later in the game.

David Marine: I know as a Mets-lifer, my answer will be interpreted as being biased, but let me layout some facts.

Santana is the best pitcher in the N.L., if not all of baseball. Hamels is unbelievable, but with the season on the line, who do you want on the mound?

That's right, Santana.

The rest of the rotation, we've pretty much established, is a wash because both teams have guys that are inconsistent as well as guys with potential to have good seasons.

As far as the bullpen, the Phillies return with the top closer in the NL while the Mets added the top closer in all of baseball and the No. 2 closer in the AL.

I'd argue that the Mets' eighth and ninth innings are more secure than the Phillies' because of the Putz/K-Rod tandem.

Middle relievers are, by nature, often unreliable, so I don't think you can say one bullpen is better than the other because there will be times when we want to get rid of the whole lot of them.

While neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a dominant pitching staff, I think the advantage has to go the Mets because of the ace that Santana is and the security in the back end of the bullpen that they've added.

Lou Cappetta: The Mets definitely have the best starter and closer in the division, even if it's by a hair. But the rest of the rotation, and especially the bullpen, is all Philadelphia.

I also believe you have to beat the champs to be the champs, and since the Phils are champs, they deserve that respect.

The edge, in a very close call, goes to the Phillies.

Phillies Side

Christian Karcole: I said the Phillies had the better rotation earlier, and I said the same for the bullpen. So that means the Phillies have the better pitching staff, doesn't it?

First, with the rotations, you know what you are going to get with the Phillies, except for maybe Myers.

Blanton is as consistent as any pitcher in the game, Hamels is Hamels, Moyer can step into any game and be counted on to get through seven innings, and Myers can be crazy at times but showed late last season what kind of talent he has.

The Mets do not have that.

Maine's inconsistency is something to worry about, Perez's production isn't tremendous, and Hernandez is wearing down after five bad seasons.

Pelfrey is the best chance the Mets have.

In the bullpen, as I have said many-a-time before, Rodriguez and Putz will not be enough. I look at K-Rod as the replacement for Wagner, so it isn't like the Mets are completely adding a new piece.

When it all boils down, Putz is the only big change to the bullpen. He can be dangerous, but we have yet to see him pitch for the Mets as a set-up man.

Until we do, we cannot say he will be able to make up for the less-than-decent middle relievers the Mets have, compared to the underrated relievers of the Phillies.

Advantage goes to the Phillies in the rotation and bullpen, which puts them down as the better overall staff.

Bryn Swartz: The Phillies have the better overall pitching staff, but it's close. It's
very, very close.

There's no doubt in my mind that Santana is better than Hamels, but I'll take Myers, Blanton, and Moyer over Maine, Pelfrey, and Perez.

Pick the Phillies pitcher there and I think you could make a case that he's better than his Met counterpart.

Lidge is better than K-Rod and, while Putz beats Madson, the rest of the Phillies' bullpen blows the Mets away. Don't underestimate guys like Durbin and Eyre.

When the Phillies pitchers are hot, there's not a team in baseball that can hit them.

The biggest thing the Phillies have going for them is confidence. That, and the fact that just about everybody on their team is an above-average pitcher.

The Mets can't say that.

Cody Swartz: Very, very close.

The No. 1 starters are pretty equal. Lidge and Madson versus K-Rod and Putz is a tossup.

The remainder of the bullpen for the Phillies is better than the remainder of the bullpen for the Mets, even without Romero for the Phillies.

The middle of the rotations are about equal as well, and I wouldn't be surprised if this question comes down to the production from the fifth starter.

Until I'm proven wrong however, I'll go with the World Champions.

That's all folks!

Who's the winner? Who's the loser? Please feel free to let us know in the comment section below. We are eager to hear your thoughts.

Be sure to look for next week's debate, as we will be discussing hitting between the two rivals with new writers for each side.

**Christian has a question for all of you out there: Would you rather take a hitter who goes 1-for-4 every night (162 games, 162-game hitting streak), yet ends up with a .250 average because of that, or a .300 hitter who does not get a hit every night? I've been thinking about this for some time now, and I want your opinions.